Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, crazy cats and acrobats – welcome to the circus! The previously derelict 1911 Edwardian Gentlemen’s Washroom is making a flamboyant re-entry onto the scene as The Gentlemen’s Arthouse special events venue in Newtown, Johannesburg this June.
A feast for the senses
“’Arthouse’ is a double entendre on the word ‘outhouse’ which is what this incredible space used to be”, explains Maira Koutsoudakis, CEO of Life Interiors + Architecture + Strategic Design, “Today it’s a celebration of gentlemen – all gentlemen – of the time and the concept of civility, but with a twist. The Gentlemen’s Arthouse, due to its nature as an insular, small foot-print, big concept space is designed as a molecular mixology bar with a high-end tasting-menu and jaw-dropping theatrical performances”.
“The drinks are a bit naughty – that’s how we want them to feel anyway – served in antique glasses. Even the food will be served in whatever piece of ‘antiquery’ we think is appropriate,” says executive chef, Jeanel Pieterse. She’s been working on dishes like stuffed marrow-bones, pressed springbok, a bay leaf crème anglaise, and she’s reworking the concept of assiettes. A definite must on the menu is the Crispy Crudo Cones which are three mini biscuit-style hand rolls with a trio of fillings, served in a cone stand; savour the biltong pate, fig salsa and biltong scented cured beef, take a bite of cucumber mousse with tuna ceviche, deep fried nori and pomegranate caviar or try the slow roasted garlic and kiri cheese with chopped parsley, salmon tartare and jalapeno salsa.
“The food is largely going to be slow-braised, a celebration of old and new Joburg, and the desserts will be very, very theatrical.”
Following the craft cocktail trend at high-end bars around SA, the mixologist at Gentlemen’s Arthouse is creating his own range of aromatics and exclusive cocktails. The venue’s semi-precious stone bar will also stock special and boutique wines.
When you enter the Gentlemen’s Arthouse, you enter the world of the curious and surprising, and the only thing to expect is the unexpected. The washroom has been transformed into a quirky, yet luxurious new space with velvet curtains, cathedral-style windows, heavy wooden bars, the original green tiles and urinals.
The Making of
“At LIFE we’re all about heritage; respecting what has come before and enhancing it with what’s current, to create an engaging space that has a lot of soul”, explains Maira.
The Life team has been working on The Gentlemen’s Arthouse for the past two years and a lot of research and PHRA-G Heritage Council submissions, as well as a lengthy design process and careful on-site restoration has led to the opening of a truly stunning events venue this June.
An off-site chef’s kitchen and new washrooms were created in a refurbished container outside of the 78 m2 structure, both to maximise the space but also to limit the new technological intervention of services such as heating, cooling, ventilation and ablution facilities which would have had fairly invasive interface with the heritage structure.
To further the transformation from an outhouse to an Arthouse, original artwork by famed local artists including William Kentridge, Kendal Geers and Norman Catherine have been installed.
“As opposed to integrating the historical buildings with the new mall alongside, we created a complete contrast – where old meets new, heritage meets contemporary in a synchronous manner of convenience and eccentricity”, Maira explains.
The Gentlemen’s Arthouse will start offering curated evenings every Thursday which will be open to the public before extending the offering to the weekends later in the year. In the interim it will be available as a complete package events venue for hire from Fridays to Wednesdays. For bookings or more information on ticket sales for the Thursday experiences contact 010 592 1911, email email@example.com or visit www.gentlemensarthouse.com